New report reveals how long it will take to close the life expectancy gap

Life expectancy for Indigenous Australians has increased by nine years over the past two decades, according to new research, but still lags significantly behind the general population.

A report led by the Northern Territory Department of Health and the University of Melbourne published online in the Medical Journal of Australia last Monday aimed to uncover trends in life expectancy and the underlying causes of death in Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations from 1999 to 2018.

She found that during this period, the life expectancy of Aboriginal men increased from 56.6 years to 65.6 years, while it increased from 64.8 years to 69.7 years for indigenous women.

These improvements have been associated with fewer lives lost to cancer, cardiovascular and kidney disease, and unintentional injuries.

While noting progress, it remains below the improvements in life expectancy for non-Indigenous Australians which rose from 77.4 years to 81.0 years for males and from 84.3 years to 85.1 years for females. women.

In a joint response to the report, Ian Ring, a researcher at the University of New South Wales, and Kalinda Griffiths, wife of Yawuru, said without reform it would take 60 years to end the disparity in life expectancy. of life.

“Progress has been slow…wider social and economic issues – including housing, education and interactions with the justice system – require much more attention,” they said.

“Reducing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous peoples and other Australians is not a utopian dream, but an achievable goal.”

Mental health care and social determinants remain challenges for Indigenous populations, as evidenced by rising suicide rates, according to the report.

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